PPEL can pay for musical instruments like a violin or a saxophone or a piano because they are equipment, and under Iowa law, PPEL can pay for
e. Purchasing, leasing, or lease-purchasing equipment or technology exceeding $500 in value per purchase, lease, or lease-purchase transaction.
(1) “Equipment” means both equipment and furnishings. The cost limitation for equipment does not apply to recreational equipment pursuant to paragraph 98.64(2)“n” or equipment that becomes an integral part of real property such as furnaces, boilers, water heaters, and central air-conditioning units that are included in repairs to a building pursuant to paragraph 98.64(2)“h.”
(2) “Transaction” means a business deal or agreement between a school district and a provider of goods or services. Technology may be bundled for purposes of exceeding $500 per transaction. [Emphasis added.] IAC 281--98.64(2).
PPEL could also pay for school furniture because furniture would be considered equipment. The Clear Creek Amana School District is even reported to be using PPEL to pay for Chromebooks for some of its students. See http://soloneconomist.com/content/clear-creek-amana-school-board-approves-11-computer-purchase-middle-school-2014-15.
Of course, there has to be enough money in a school district’s PPEL fund to be able to purchase musical instruments with it. And in districts with enormous building plans, there may not be, which can result in 1) the district’s general fund (used to pay many teachers and textbooks) paying for equipment and furnishings that might otherwise be paid for out of PPEL or 2) school supporters using up fund raising capacity to pay for items money raised from a tax levy could pay for.
The time is now for the Iowa City Community School District (ICCSD) to report publicly on how much of its general fund is being used to fund expenses PPEL or even SAVE could pay for. If the amount of money that could be preserved in its general fund is equivalent to even one teacher (like a German teacher perhaps?) or providing more music instruction to even one child, the voting public ought to have a better understanding of what ICCSD’s facilities’ plan is costing the district.
This is not to say that many of the building projects are not good. ICCSD clearly needs an additional high school and there are older schools like Longfellow and Horace Mann that have serious building needs. However, there might be lesser facilities wants that might be set aside or postponed so that even a little money in the general fund can be freed up for educational needs.